A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Letter to Editor: Best protection against highly contagious meningitis is to be immunized

To the Editor:

As the parent of a soon-to-be college student, I can’t help feeling nervous during this brutal flu season. Highly contagious illnesses like the flu, meningitis and whooping cough can present major problems on college campuses, where students spend a lot of time in close quarters with one another.

I was heartbroken to read the news about a University of Kentucky student recently hospitalized for bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis infects the brain and can lead to loss of limbs, memory loss, seizures and even death.

The best protection against this dangerous disease is the meningococcal conjugate immunization, which guards against four strains of meningitis (A, C, W and Y). Earlier this summer, the Commonwealth of Kentucky enacted a new regulation requiring two doses of the conjugate vaccine for young adults. College students should also receive the meningitis B immunization, as this strain accounts for more than half of all bacterial meningitis cases.

Thankfully, the University of Kentucky has its own immunization policy requiring students to receive a meningitis immunization. Without a policy like this, the situation could have quickly spiraled from an isolated case to a campus-wide outbreak.

Many colleges have immunization policies on the books, but unless they are properly enforced, students remain at risk. The University of Kentucky and other universities in our state must enforce these policies and take proactive steps to ensure students are properly immunized. Our children’s health and wellbeing are on the line.

To decrease the chance of an outbreak, a majority of students must be properly immunized against a disease, creating “community immunity.” Community immunity occurs when enough people are properly immunized to break the transmission chain of a contagious disease.

For many, college is one of the most valuable and exciting seasons of life—let’s ensure it stays that way. A safe and simple shot is all it takes.

Tracy Kielman
Kentucky Immunization Coalition

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